Fedhasa has reiterated its plea to government to use all mechanisms other than lockdowns to keep pressure on the country's healthcare system at a minimum as the Omicron variant dominates the country's fourth wave.
"We have asked Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu to intervene on our behalf, highlighting the extent to which the sector has suffered the collateral damage of lockdowns for the past 21 months. Our hospitality businesses simply cannot survive a repeat of last year December where beach bans, alcohol restrictions and extended curfews effectively shut us down," says Rosemary Anderson, Fedhasa National Chairperson.
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With the recent international travel bans imposed on South Africa, hospitality businesses are reliant on domestic tourism over the festive season. To this end, Fedhasa and industry partners have been working closely with Minister Sisulu and have submitted alternatives to lockdown restrictions. "We want to thank Minister Sisulu for her commitment to our industry and for bearing our message to help us keep our doors open," says Anderson.
In addition to strict adherence of tourism health and hygiene safety protocols instituted last year, the hospitality sector has suggested, among others, reducing the size of indoor gatherings, expanding curfew and prioritising vaccination of South Africans to mitigate the impact on South Africa’s healthcare system. With the variant already prevalent across South Africa, there is no point in banning inter-provincial travel to stop its spread.
"While we are reminded it is early days, the enhanced transmissibility of this variant does not appear to have translated into high levels of hospitalisation and death. Consequently, the pressure on our healthcare system remains manageable which is what lockdown restrictions are there to ensure. We, therefore, believe there is no reason for additional lockdown restrictions to be implemented," adds Anderson.
Further, leisure domestic tourism is low risk as it consists mainly of family/group travel in private vehicles to establishments and engaging in summer outdoor activities.
The development of new variants and associated travel bans and lockdowns must come to an end if the travel and hospitality sectors have any hope of recovery in 2022. "We ask every South African who has yet to be vaccinated to help us save our industry by getting their #jab4tourism as a matter of urgency and adhering to the protocols we have implemented.
"Our industry bears the brunt of these semi-regular lockdowns. You may not think it affects you other than a minor inconvenience. Consider however that tourism puts food on the table of one in seven South Africans. Then consider what the impact of you not being vaccinated means for the thousands of tourism workers who lose their livelihood every time government imposes a lockdown in South Africa. Do the right thing and get vaccinated so we can get back to business," concludes Anderson.